How Can Allergies Cause Headaches?
There are many misconceptions about the link between allergies and headaches. The studies done on allergy headaches have produced different outcomes, resulting in a debate between experts about how allergies can affect the occurrence of headaches in a person. One thing they do agree on is that allergic rhinitis and certain food allergies are a factor in certain types of headaches like migraines and sinus headaches. Scientists continue to explore the possibilities, debunk myths, and uncover the truth about the relationship between these two conditions to help the 30-40% of the public, who suffer from some sort of allergy, minimize the occurrence of headaches triggered by their allergies.
The Connection of Allergies and Headaches
Allergies can trigger migraines a number of ways. Allergens often trigger an inflammatory reaction causing the body to release chemicals such as prostaglandins, histamine, serotonin, and leukotrienes. All these chemicals released during an allergy attack are known triggers of migraine headaches. Another way allergies trigger headaches is through the nasal congestion often experienced with an allergic rhinitis attack. Nerves in the nasal passages can be activated when the nose is congested, leading to migraines or sinus headaches. Lastly, allergies affect a person’s mood and increase the symptoms of anxiety or depression which may lead to depression headaches or a perceived increase in severity when migraines occur.
Although a link between allergies and headaches has been established, not all allergies can trigger headaches. This is where a lot of the confusion comes from. Some of the food items that trigger migraines have nothing to do with allergies at all. The best way to find out whether an allergy is causing headaches is to schedule an appointment with one of our headache specialists immediately. A doctor will conduct skin tests and have some blood work done in order to confirm what allergens are causing a reaction in each individual. To determine whether these allergens cause headaches, food items containing these allergens will be eliminated from a patient’s diet one by one and will eventually be re-introduced. During this period, the patient will be expected to record the frequency and intensity of headaches experienced without the food items and when they are reintroduced to see if they make a difference. If you feel that your food allergies or allergic rhinitis is causing headaches, it is important to consult a headache specialist to confirm your suspicions and to get proper treatment.
Treatment of Headaches Caused by Allergies
In cases when a person’s allergic rhinitis causes headaches, doctors can prescribe nasal steroids which not only clear up a person’s nasal passages, they also act as a leukotriene inhibitor which can help stop migraines. Allergy shots can also help lessen the occurrence of non-migraine headaches associated with allergic rhinitis. If a food allergy is causing the headaches, then the only way to avoid headaches related to allergies is to avoid the food items altogether. To find out more about the relationship between allergies and headaches or which food items contain the allergens that cause your headaches, consult with one of our qualified headache specialists for proper diagnosis and treatment.